Advent#6

Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-town-in-china-that-makes-the-worlds-christmas-decorations

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.
https://www.giselagraham.co.uk/contact-us/

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.

Advent#5

This time last year we were wandering the streets of Hong Kong looking for the location of the military hospital that Hannah was born in. On the way we walked streets with amazing neon signs.

Like so much in Hong Kong, a year has seen a lot of changes. Beyond the well publicised protests, there are other alterations to Hong Kong’s heritage afoot. Neons, in particular the ones that hang over roads are being removed. Health and safety and energy economics are the reasons given. Hong Kongers see it as another sign of Hong Kong culture being crushed by China. Their loss will alter the night- life street- life scene massively.

© Juliet Cornell Watercolour

Advent#4

Mistletoe at Cotehele

Mistletoe looking glossy during last weeks visit to Cotehele.

Culturally it’s a busy plant, there’s the well known kissing tradition, beloved by Hollywood and the music industry.

#metoo has illuminated that to be a less benign and darker force at times. Especially in the workplace.

Pre- Christians, and Ancient Greeks tagged Mistletoe with the responsibility of representing male fertility. The Celts took this to a whole new level and claimed Mistletoe was the actual semen of a chap called Taranis. Surely that would smart* a bit.

It takes the Romans to give Mistletoe a more comfortable festive responsibility . As part of Saturnalia it was hung around doorways and thresholds to protect those within and represented Peace, Love and Understanding.

*smart – verb, to feel or cause a sharp burning pain in part of the body.

More plant based Cotehele stuff,
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/11/29/cotehele-garland/

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Advent#3

December Sunset at Churchtown Farm. This works in two ways , it is a brilliant December image for Advent and the location fits nicely into the Memorial Bench category. This bench is not the one that inspired my memorial bench writings but it is the one that I see the most often as it’s on my regular dog walk. It often gets a mention on the Churchtown Farm Facebook page, because people get such peace and solace from perching here. It is placed overlooking a beautifully peaceful stretch of the River Lynher. Jupiter Point, part of HMS Raleigh is the silver twinkles at the far left of this image. Beyond the Navy the water here is pretty quiet, troubled only by sailing boats and the occasional gig from Caradon Pilot Gig Club based in Saltash.A17EB3BB-A74D-4FD2-8A4D-713A9B76BE6C

This bench is unusual because it is so solid and the commemoration is carved into the wood, it’s solidity increases the sense of its permanence in the landscape. The location is so beautiful and the seat so comfy it’s hard to walk past . Not necessarily efficient dog walking but perfect for pondering. It’s what3words location is react.sometime.breeze

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Advent #2

Tree of memory Xavi Bové Studio and Onionlab

https://illuminate-festival.co.uk/

Illuminate 2019

Iluminate 2019’s first night was scheduled for United States Thanksgiving Day, the 4th Thursday of November. It was also the first public event linked to Mayflower 400 in Plymouth.This was the the third Illuminate event to be hosted in the City. The previous two were held exclusively at the Royal William Yard. 2019 saw the action shared with Mount Edgcumbe and the Barbican. I am interested to see if this was considered a successful idea.

Illuminate is a festival of light based art installations, projections and interactive displays. Local, national and International artists take part.

Regeneration Nathaniel J Hall

theoldmortuary made two evening dog walks more interesting by visiting two of the locations. The Royal William Yard was a great experience. The Barbican less so.

Atmosphere is a magic ingredient, organisers do their very best to create by delivering spectacular content and experience, it’s the publics reaction to the artwork that makes the fizz and energy of a successful event. The buzz at the Royal William Yard on Thursday must have been everything the organisers wanted. Plenty of happy people enjoying contemporary art in dry winter weather. Lovely street food, great coffee and live music.

The Art was spectacular in every way.

Diva Thomas Voillaume Apache Creation with Jeremy Oury for Video Mapping

Friday night saw us walking the dogs to the Barbican. Curiously quiet for a Friday, there were almost more event volunteers than art lovers.The harbour in front of The Ship pub was the location of a beautiful installation.called Baitball by The Media Workshop. A video projection onto mist.

Sardines swirled and shapeshifted in the mist just above the surface of the water. The work was mesmerising.

Not so great was Her Voices also by The Media Workshop. Located in the Elizabethan Garden.

The installation was broken in some way and no effort was being made to make a repair. Disappointing in many respects particularly as it must have been one of the premier locations, of the festival. Not really good enough.

Curio- Trigger Stuff by Savinder Bual and Elena Blanco was intriguing . A series of doors with letter boxes that allowed the viewer to peep into tiny interiors that showed artifacts that hinted at local people’s ideas of home. I wasn’t convinced that this was in any way more interesting by being illuminated but maybe the complete lack of atmosphere on the Barbican had jaded my artistic edge.

On a positive note for the Barbican, Sunday night saw the Christmas lights turned on in addition to Illuminate . I’m sure the magic more than made up for Friday.

Advent #1

Christmas Scene at Jacka Bakery

This morning was sunny and beautiful. The sun was out and the temperature was down, time for a long walk and a hot coffee as a reward.

Jacka Bakery is the oldest working Bakery in the country. Coffee here was our half-way, warm-up and sit-down reward.

theoldmortuary wrote a blog a while ago that mentioned an earlier visit to Jacka.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2017/05/12/what-a-difference-the-sun-makes/

Cotehele Garland

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The Tamar Valley can be a grey and dank place between November and January. Outings tend to need the right sort of clothes and a brew. A trip, at this time of year, to the medieval Manor House, Cotehele, provides numerous muddy walks along rivers or in the countryside and plenty of chances for a brew. It also alleviates the dankness with a fabulous flashback to the fecundity of Summer.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele

The tradition of the garland goes back to the 1950’s. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. Because it appears in November and carries on beyond the new year. Many first time visitors are surprised by its colour scheme. It doesn’t shout Christmas with rich jewel colours  or bold glossy green foliage, instead it is a joyous celebration of summer colours. Everything in the garland is grown, dried and stored on the estate.

 

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My eye is always caught by the bright pink abstract wiggles of Limonium suworowii or Pink pokers. Tethered, as they undoubtedly are, in the garland, they look like horticultural escape artists waiting to break free.
The garland is the responsibility of the head gardener. Each garland takes 12 days to assemble but it has taken a full gardening year to grow the plants from seed and then harvest them to be hung and dried ready for the November assembly. Depending on the quality of the summer weather, between 23,000 and 35,000 flowers are produced. Volunteers spend 70 hours a week caring for, then cutting and stripping the flowers ready to be dried. Picking starts in April, once ready, they are bunched and hung to dry until November.

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Each garland differs slightly depending on the growing success, or not, of the various flowers that traditionally form the garland. Some years a theme is adopted that has a particular significance, for example, last year was the centenerary of the end of World War 1.
The green base of the garland is the product from fifty Pittosporum or Cheesewood trees, an evergreen shrub with small, shiny, leathery leaves. Ninety feet of rope forms the beginning of the swag, bunches of Pittosporum are then tied to the rope until it is covered.
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Photo credit . The National Trust. Cotehele

The swag is then ready to become a garland.
Scaffolding is erected indoors and the swag is hung in the Great Hall, gardeners clamber up to create the lofty design, the beauty of a years harvest of flowers and hard work are pushed into the greenery one colour at a time to ensure an even distribution.

sdr_vivid The Garland attracts 32,000 visitors to the estate. For some it is an annual visit, to rekindle the memories of past visits, for others, it is a unique experience, never to be repeated but wonderful never the less. The volunteer guides at Cotehele are a huge asset. This pondering was all gleaned from talking to a volunteer for less than ten minutes, I don’t think she missed a single thing.